I found twenty-seven references to baseball in the Missouri Republican from 1861. This was a sharp increase from the two references I found in the Republican from 1859 and the three in the Republican from 1860. This is also substantially more references to baseball than the thirteen that I found in the St. Louis Daily Bulletin from 1860.
The references in the Republican from 1861 specifically mention ten different clubs. Prior references in the Republican, in 1860, only mention five clubs. However, the Daily Bulletin, in 1860, mentions eight clubs. If we want to be technical about the number of clubs the Republican mentioned in 1861, there were actually only eight, with two of the clubs having junior nines. Then again, the Republican did report on a game played by a second nine of the Union Club. So, in 1861, we have eight clubs, two junior nines and a second nine mentioned. That's a total of eleven nines mentioned in the Republican. All of the clubs mentioned by the Daily Bulletin in 1860 were still active in 1861 and mentioned in the Republican except for the Lone Stars. The only clubs mentioned by the Republican and not by the Daily Bulletin were the Lacledes, the Commercial, Jrs., and the Excelsior, Jrs.
There were fifteen games of baseball mentioned in the Republican in 1861. Seven of these were match games played between clubs while the rest were muffin games and games played between picked nines. The Republican only mentioned two games in 1860, both match games between clubs. The Daily Bulletin, in 1860, mentioned eight games and all were match games.
The Republican, in 1861, mentions three places were games were played: Lafayette Park, Gamble Lawn, and the Fairgrounds. In 1860, they mentioned games played at the Fairgrounds and the Laclede Grounds at Twenty-Seventh and Biddle. The Daily Bulletin, in 1860, also mentioned three places were games were played: the Fairgrounds, the Laclede Grounds, and Gamble Lawn.
That's a lot of information and I thought about making some graphs to present all of this but then I realized I don't get paid to do this. So no graphs. But what does all of this information mean? What does it tell us about the game in St. Louis at the beginning of the Civil War?
I think the only thing we can state for certain is that the Missouri Republican expanded their baseball coverage in 1861, going from three references to the game in 1860 to twenty-seven the next year. Generally, during the pioneer baseball era in St. Louis, newspapers expanded their baseball coverage when the game experienced a growth in popularity and cut back that coverage when the game's popularity began to wane. The expansion of baseball coverage in the Republican in 1861 appears to be evidence of the growth in the popularity of the game in St. Louis at the beginning of the Civil War.
However, in all of this information, I don't really see any evidence of the growth of the game in St. Louis. The Republican only mentions one club not mentioned in the Daily Bulletin - the Lacledes - but the Daily Bulletin, in 1860, does mention "the Laclede grounds," implying that the Lacledes were active in 1860. The junior clubs and the Unions' second nine does imply that the clubs themselves were growing and expanding, as does the reference to the honorary members of the Empire Club. But there doesn't appear that there were any more clubs in 1861 than there was in 1860. In fact, it's possible that there may have been fewer clubs in 1861, as the Republican fails to mention any activity by the Lone Stars.
The Republican mentions seven match games in 1861 but the Daily Bulletin mentions eight in 1860. Does this mean that there were fewer match games in 1861 than there were in 1860? Not necessarily. One thing we have to consider is that the Daily Bulletin had better baseball coverage in 1860 than the Republican did in 1861. That's absolutely possible and could skew the superficial analysis that we're doing here. But the fact remains that we have references to more match games in 1860 than we do in 1861.
One particular thing of interest here is that there is no reference to baseball played at Lafayette Park prior to 1861. Both the Republican and the Daily Bulletin mention games played at Gamble Lawn, the Laclede grounds, and the Fairgrounds. But the Daily Bulletin fails to mention any baseball activity at Lafayette Park in 1860. However, the Republican does refer to the park as the Cyclones' "old grounds," so one has to assume that the club played at the park in 1860, which is consistent with references in the secondary source material. If that's the case then there are no new grounds mentioned in the Republican in 1861. I would imagine if the game was growing and there were a substantial number of new clubs then one would see new grounds being used. But we don't see that.
So where does that leave us? We have an increase in baseball coverage in the Republican and a likely increase in the size of the previously existing baseball clubs in 1861. But we don't see an increase in the number of clubs, the number of matches, and the number of grounds used.
I actually find that to be particularly surprising. Prior to looking at all of this, I would have stated that we did see an increase in the number of clubs and matches between 1860 and 1861 in St. Louis. But there is no evidence to support that. This is not what I expected to find when I began comparing the data.
There is an ongoing argument within the 19th century baseball research community about the impact that the Civil War had on the growth and evolution of baseball. There is no doubt that the community has been moving away from the idea that the war helped spread the game and was responsible for the post-war baseball boom and towards the idea that the war impeded the growth and spread of the game. I am, essentially, in the latter camp and will, at some point, explain my thinking with regards to that. But I have been amazed, over the last few years, by how much more information I've found about baseball activity in St. Louis during the war years then I thought I would find. The secondary sources - specifically Tobias and Spink - had lead me to believe that there was very little going on in St. Louis during the war and that has turned out to be absolutely not true. There was a great deal of baseball being played in St. Louis during the Civil War and that's really what this entire series is all about.
I think the fact that I thought I'd find very little baseball activity in St. Louis during the war and ended up finding a lot has clouded my thinking about the impact of the war on baseball. I was kind of getting away from the idea that the war had a negative impact on the growth of the game and leaning towards this notion that the war had little to no impact on the game's growth in St. Louis - that the game grew and expanded in St. Louis despite the war.
But, when taking a closer look at the evidence, I don't see much growth in 1861. There aren't more clubs. There aren't more match games. There aren't more grounds. I just don't see much evidence to support the idea that baseball was growing in St. Louis in 1861. I believe, based on the increase in newspaper coverage in the Republican, that the game was becoming more popular and it's entirely possible that the existing clubs were larger and playing more intramural games and muffin games than they were in 1860. So to that extent, the game was growing in St. Louis. But I had expected to see much more than that. I thought there were more clubs and more match games in 1861 than in 1860. Based on the evidence I have, I was wrong to believe that.
The big question here, of course, is was this lack of growth a result of the Civil War? I believe that it was. St. Louis, in 1861, was a city at war. A battle was fought in the city in May. Men were joining up and leaving the city to go fight. Martial law was declared in August. There was most likely a Confederate terrorist cell in the city setting fire to steamboats. St. Louis was a city with divided loyalties caught up in the madness of a civil war. How could this not have an impact on someone's desire to go play baseball? How important could baseball be to someone living in St. Louis in 1861?
If there is one thing I hope I'm achieving with this series, it's placing early St. Louis baseball in the context of the war itself. This game was played on the day that this battle was fought. I want you all to think about the game in that context. The Civil War wasn't something in a textbook for our pioneer baseball players. It was something that they lived through and experienced. It was something that had a profound impact on their lives. Edward Bredell lived through the siege of Vicksburg and died, far from home, fighting a guerrilla war against the Union. This was a man who was as significant to the early history of the game in St. Louis as anyone. How important was baseball to him when he was starving at Vicksburg? In that context, should we be surprised that there weren't a bunch of new baseball clubs in St. Louis in 1861 or that there weren't a lot more match games?
In the end, I think it's really simple. Why didn't the game grow more in St. Louis between 1860 and 1861? The answer has to be that people were busy with other and more important things.